Speyside delights

Martine Nouet looks back at 10 years of Aberlour whisky dinners at the Spirit of Speyside festival with a ‘best of...' menu
By Martine Nouet
Already 10 years… The Aberlour Whisky Dinner has become one of the highlights of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, culminating this year in a special anniversary as it reached the 10th edition. The gourmet rendez-vous has now taken the turn of a friends’ gathering. Some guests have be coming to the Fleming rooms in Aberlour distillery since the first dinner. This remarkable faithfulness compels the organisers to be more creative in return as you can’t repeat the same menu twice.

But we made an exception this year as 2010 marked the 10th anniversary of this well-attended whisky and food event. We decided to design a “best of ” menu and so we selected dishes which had been particularly successful along this decade, making just slight changes in the pairings. In the kitchen was Eric Obry, owner and chef of La Faisanderie restaurant in Dufftown who, once more, gave the guests a real taste of the Auld Alliance.

This menu illustrates one of the leading principles in pairing food and whisky according to the type of maturation. Basically, a whisky matured in sherry casks will give a better match with meats whereas the bourbon casks ones features well with fish and shellfish.

Aberlour Distillery visitors centre offers the visitors the choice to fill in a bottle from a sherry cask or a bourbon cask.

The Aberlour bourbon cask is a remarkable 14 Years Old one. Creamy, rich, opening on peppermint, coconut and juicy exotic fruit, it explodes into a fizzy spicy display on the palate though retaining a caressing silky feel. A perfect combination for the scallops and langoustines while the saffron enhanced hollandaise met the whisky lively character.

The matching was reflected in the colours too, plate and glass harmoniously tuning up.

Here is one more proof that bourbon cask maturation suits Aberlour perfectly.

When will we be granted with a bottling similar to the wonderful Aberlour 1976 that the distillery bottled some 15 years ago? I still remember the superb bouquet of this outstanding whisky. If whisky lovers united their voice, they might be heard, who knows!

Some years ago, an Aberdeen Angus beef fillet had conquered the diners. This time, Eric Obry based the dish on a périgourdine sauce as previously, using truffles and foie gras, but he chose Welsh black beef instead of Aberdeen Angus. No reason to complain. The meat was as mouthmelting and tasty. The truffles underlined the musky and earthy note of a’bunadh. The melting texture of the meat echoed the velvety mouthfeel of the whisky. One could argue that this dish would be more convenient on an autumn menu than for a summer dinner but the rather gloomy weather did not invite to a light salad anyway!

When it is question of cheese, Great-Britain has no reason to be ashamed, even if it is not easy to convince French gourmets of the excellence of its cheeses. A small dairy produced unpasteurised cheeses including a creamy Scottish brie, a tasty gouda and a crowdie, all served with Aberlour 18 Years Old. Crowdie can be bland if served as such. But enriched with honey, spices and chopped dried fruit which had marinated in the same Aberlour for three weeks and accompanied by oatcakes, it could have featured on the dessert menu.

In fact, the pudding also included a crowdie type cheese –Italian ricotta – enhanced by quince jelly. The match with Scapa 16 was a very close one.

The best of ten years of Aberlour whisky dinners

Welcome Dram

Aberlour 10 Years Old Sherry Cask Finish 43% ABV

Cream of Sweet Potato with Toasted Almonds

Aberlour 10 Years Old 40% ABV

Scallops and Langoustines, broad beans and saffron hollandaise

Aberlour Bourbon Cask 14 Years Old 63.3% ABV

Fillet of Black Welsh Beef with Perigourdine Aberlour a’bunadh Sauce, Dauphinoise potatoes & green beans

Aberlour a’bunadh Batch No 18 59.7% ABV

Organic Cheeses from Connage Dairy - Crowdie, Clava & Gouda

Served with fruit and nut chutney flavoured with Aberlour 18 Years Old, Walkers’ Oatcakes and salad, Aberlour 18 Years Old 43% ABV

Pears in Scapa flavoured Quince Jelly with Ricotta Mousse and Walker’s crumbly ginger shortbread

Scapa 16 Years Old 40% ABV


Aberlour 16 Years Old 43% ABV

Fillet of black Welsh beef

With Perigourdine Aberlour a’bunadh sauce, Dauphinoise potatoes & green beans

Serves 6


  • 1.2 kg fillet beef, cut into 6 servings

  • 1 tbsp oil

  • 30g butter

For the périgourdine sauce

  • 1 onion

  • 30g flour

  • 500ml beef stock

  • 1 bouquet garni

  • 50g foie gras (cut in small dice)

  • 1 small tin of truffle extract

  • 2 tbsp whisky

  • Salt, pepper

1. Prepare the sauce. Melt the butter in a pan, add the chopped onion. Once golden, sprinkle with flour. Mix thoroughly and pour the stock, little by little. Stir constantly. Season with salt and pepper, add the bouquet garni. Let simmer for 20 min. Sieve the sauce. Add the foie gras dice ad let them melt slowly. Finish with the whisky and the truffle extract. Keep warm.
2. Warm oil and butter in a pan. Cook the beef 3 to 6 min, depending on the type of cooking you like (from rare to well-cooked). Place the steaks on warm plates. Spoon the périgourdine sauce. Serve with French beans and a gratin dauphinois.

Select the whisky

A sherry cask matured single malt will suit that rich dish. A’bunadh and also Linkwood, Mortlach, Daluaine or The Glenrothes 1985. You could also choose a port finish like The Balvenie PortWood 21 Years Old. Speyside is a reservoir of excellent malts!

Scallops and langoustines, broad beans and saffron hollandaise

Serves 6


  • 6 scallops

  • 12 langoustines

  • 50g butter

  • salt, pepper

  • 500g broad beans (skinned)

For the hollandaise

  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar

  • 2 tbsp water

  • A pinch of saffron

  • 2 yolks

  • 100g salted butter (cut into dice)

  • juice of half a lemon

  • pepper

1. Cook the langoustines 3 min in boiling salted water.
2. Prepare the hollandaise. Boil water and vinegar with saffron for 1 minute. Place the pan in a bain-marie. Whisk the yolks and add them to the liquid. Don’t stop whisking. Remove from gas and add the butter, dice by dice. Finish with lemon juice and pepper. Keep warm.
3. Melt butter in a frying-pan. Sauté the scallops one minute on each face. Do the same with the langoustines. Place the shellfish on warm plates. Deglaze the pan with a touch of whisky and pour a few drops on the scallops.
4. Spoon the hollandaise round the shellfish. Add the broad beans and a sprig of chervil.

Select the whisky

The choice is obvious. Go for a single malt which has matured in bourbon casks. Select an unpeated malt such as Aberlour 10 Years Old or Glenmorangie Nectar d’Or. But you can also try a peated malt. Caol Ila brings out a charming match with shellfish. More pungent, Laphroaig, especially the Quarter Cask, will play harmony between vanilla and smoke.

Pears in Scapa flavoured quince jelly

With ricotta mousse and Walker’s crumbley ginger shortbread

Serves 6


  • 1 small tin of pears in syrup

  • Half a vanilla pod

  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

  • 3 gelatin leaves

  • 4 tbsp quince jelly

  • A pinch of ground pepper

  • 300g ricotta

  • 50g crème fraîche

  • 2 tbsp muscovado sugar

  • 3 tbsp whisky

  • 3 ginger shortbread (crumbled)

1. Soak the gelatin leaves in cold water. Drain the pears but don’t throw the syrup. Cut the pears in dice. Boil the pear syrup with the vanilla pod and the lemon juice. Drain two gelatin leaves and melt them in the syrup. Divide the pears into six glass bowls. Cover with the syrup and place 30 min in the fridge to allow to set.
2. Warm the quince jelly in the microwave. Add 1 tbsp of whisky and the last gelatin leaf. Season with pepper. Keep aside.
3. Mix muscovado sugar and the rest of the whisky. Place one minute in the microwave. Whisk the ricotta for a few minutes and mix with the sugar.
4. Pour 1tbsp quince jelly on the pears then the ricotta mouss. Sprinkle with the crumbled shortbread.

Select the whisky

Choose a fresh and fruity malt. A light Speyside such as Glenlivet 12 Years Old or Glenfiddich 12 Years Old or a fragrant Highland malt like Balblair 1997. Further North, Scapa 16 Years Old maries its delicacy to the pudding one. A fruity Irish whiskey, Tyrconnell for instance, will bring out the pear flavours. A guaranteed success.